Do y’all use organic amendments like compost or vermicompost for growing? How do your like to use them? What do your think their greatest value are for your crop?
I vermipost all the organic waste from my grow and use the castings in my living soil. I love worms!
Awesome, I am glad to hear that some folks are harnessing the power of worms to deal with their waste in a natural way! Are you able to eliminate all of your plant waste with this method, or do you still have to deal with some of the plant waste with other methods? Also how much space does your vermicomposting set up take up? (I am a huge fan of worms and think they have great potential for providing soil amendments and managing waste!)
I am a lover of composted pine bark! You get it for free! The wood industry begs you to take the pine bark.
University of Arkansas, did excellent work on this in the 1970’s and 80’s. Best thing we ever added to our soilless mixes. Then MetroMix started adding it to there line.
The pine bark when Composted is so active in the soilless mix it was a night to day change.
100% of my plant waste goes to the worms. I also am a huge fan of the incredible power of these tiny red wrigglers! I am in constant awe of the cycle of life just within my small facility! My vermiposting containers are large Rubbermaid totes. They easily stack on stainless shelving and take up a minimal amount of space
Have you ever experimented with other composted woods or active amendments? Or is the composted pine bark so inexpensive and successful that you don’t really need to experiment at all?
I love hearing about all of the different things folks use to grow with and surprised with how much diversity there is in this field!
The work with composted pine bark was going on when I was in school in the 1980’s. We had such success with it added to peat moss that we never looked back. We used all the work from the nursery extension specialist Christoph Starbuck. He found he had better growth and cold hardiness results in his nursery stock, his mix was to heavy for us. So we made a mix of 60% promix and 40% composted pine bark 1/4 inch chop. We grew everything in one teaching house in this mix and another teaching house with just promix. The combination out performed the promix in every trial. Premier was not interested in the work. Then we worked with the people at MetroMix in 1989 to get MetroMix 510 made in bulk. We grew 90% straight in the bag. Two bags across narrow by 48 bags long drip lines into the bags. We used the MetroMix for one season, 8 months and then add it to the fields. We used 10 palettes of it a winter season. Another 10 pallets in spring for preparation of planting the fields. All the field plugs for the field production was started in it. The only place we did not use it was in the propagation rooms. We used a standard plug tray mix for a 400 cell tray. I will find photos, just to show off.
We would compost clean wood chips, hard woods. No walnut. (Tomatoes, are killed by walnut wood) But, you have to wait to so long to make it much use of them. Big nitrogen sink when decomposing. So we added so much nitrogen to get a good compost. I know it was a dog on the pocket book. But, our business partner a 60 year old double PhuD, loved the stuff. But we would top dress the field plantings, with it for water conservation. They would get tilled in before the winter cover crop was planted. Also unless you have a front end loader it is just not practical to compost wood chips. And you need an insane amount of space to just compost wood chips. The chips came from a local arborists who would garentee no walnut. We got them for free.
From the voices in my head
Fascinating! Thank you very much for your thoughts and insight on this! It is great that you are helping conserve to carbon emissions by actively using the composted wood from others!
To be completely honest we were way more selfish that. We wanted to reduce or fungicide bill, this was strictly an economic destination. Environmental issue where nice but only secondary. We wanted food in our tummies and a roof over are head. We need to be different. We choose bio control not because we where convinced that we could make it work. We had some real doubt. Only the tomato growers doing and people where just start to monitor with yellow sticky cards up. It was strictly a dollar and cent thing. The labor that spray cost is just to high. In not only spraying but reentry time just started. Bugs work around the clock and with a good ipm plan we could make it work. It was hard nailing down the delivery cycle for biologicals. I learn you want your bugs delivered on Wednesday or Thursday. The bugs came from the hot house tomato world mostly. We wanted to spend our time and money on things that gave use time and money.
We grew some specialty vegetables then in the summer. Many can not live by flowers alone in Kansas metro area in the summer. Winter yes. So we grew specialty tomatoes. A yellow tomato that was big enough to stuff like a red pepper. All the small ones went to people who need them. It was the first time I grew an heirloom tomato on that scale. We got $5 dollars a tomato. On one acre of yellow tomato’s we want 10k tomato a week sale able. That ment about 30k picked a week. Lots manual labor.
Field IPM was much more complex that the greenhouse because a greenhouse is a homogeneous environment. The field needs many more input than the greenhouse. Supprize thing we learned about high end field production cost more per square foot week than the greenhouse cost to operate. And I know the number greenhouse cost 21 cents per square foot week. The field cost 36 cents per square foot week years one and two and 28 per square week all subsequent years. This is why planning these investments is so critical. Hell 10k square of the best non glass greenhouse of the day with 12 foot side walls and 30 foot bays. 140k installed all equipment accept the addition of HID lighting year two but we were pre-wire for the lights. 8 years of higher education to poor concrete and do construction. I loved it. I had to learn how to run all the trackers, from end loadeds and skid loaders college my freshman year. Extra credit if you learned how to operate an excavator.
I overdid vericompost and it cause to much water rention and it completely neutralized my soil including hydroponics.
I was listening to a nursery to use use up to 20% by weight in order for the appropriate levels to raise chitin.
I realized it can be expensive for fancy worm castings given a high cellulose diet. I learned that 20% weight is alot of precious space in my medium. So it perlite btw. I learned that trying to grow acid loving plants do not like neutral soil from to much castings. I learned never top dress with 1-2" of vericompost it will clog pores and hold way to much water and turn to cement and ve difficult to rewet and water the plant.
What I do like is roughly 1-2% in my mix of 2-3 differnet types. Vericompost is really just slow release bacteria no fungi at all. Some nutrients but depends what the worms are fed and raised. The sticky stuff in the worms stomach is what makes it so special.
Use em but don’t abuse em. There are many other ways to use them like making compost tea with worm castings and addives. This is 2019 and vericompost is just so so and it can hurt you more than good in my opinion. For someone new to organics and inoculents, welcome it’s a great start.
Wet soggy soil is bad soil. Your flower beds and turff will love it. The vericompost will attract more worms. More worms more birds more droppings.
Charles Darwin wrote about how the redworm are one of nature’s best things. I can’t remember the quote.
Bravo, I like any fungi and bacteria as part of the water in the drip irrigation. CLF all the way except at finish. Then maybe just biologicals. Good stressor change in diet after flower set. Thank you for a great idea.
The quote is from his last book.
My favorite quote in the book is “Archæologists ought to be grateful to worms”
Good paper on earth worms and Darwin they quote lots of his best quotes.
Simplify a good read in a very different style. I really like this style of science writing.
The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the action of worms with observations on their habits